WASHINGTON – There's no more "French" in the "fries" served in House cafeterias on Capitol Hill.
Chairman of the House Administration Committee Bob Ney, R-Ohio, ordered cafeterias Tuesday to rename "French fries" to "freedom fries" in a display of congressional pique at French intransigence over war with Iraq.
Ney and Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., made the name changes official when they personally altered the menu signs in the Longworth building's cafeteria.
"Once again, our brave men and women in the American military are putting their lives on the line to ensure the freedom and security of others, and once again, France is sitting on the sidelines," Ney said.
"Over the years, France has enjoyed all of the benefits of an alliance with the United States, and all our nation has received in return is a trade deficit and a cry for help when their appeasement efforts fail. This action today is a small but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally, France."
Following the lead of several restaurants around the country, the cafeterias have also changed the name of French toast to freedom toast.
Lawmakers have been using anti-French rhetoric since the centuries-old ally said it would oppose any use of military force against Iraq, preferring to trust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions to disarm.
Americans and Congress "will not soon forget the rank hypocrisy and blatant disloyalty displayed by your country today," Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., wrote in a letter Friday to the French and German ambassadors in Washington.
"Your constant opposition to America's efforts to remove a regime that has continually violated several, if not all of the human rights provisions within the United Nations charter and presents an increasing threat to democracies all over the world is nothing short of appalling," he wrote.
"France and Germany are losing credibility by the day, and they are losing, I think, status in the world," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said last month. "They are walking a fine line that is very dangerous."
But the rhetoric has not turned into action. So far, little legislation has been introduced that would change the nature of the U.S.-Franco relationship. The legislation that has been offered does not seem on its way to a vote.
Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has introduced bills to discourage American citizens and bar the Pentagon from participating in the Paris Air Show over the next several years. Saxton also has offered a measure that would block French companies from participating in or receiving U.S. government financing in any postwar reconstruction of Iraq.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., has offered a bill aimed at retaliation for restrictive French and European trade policies against American agricultural imports. The bill would require labeling on French wine that uses bovine blood to make murky wine clearer. The European Union banned bovine blood in wine a half-dozen years ago, but older vintages might still contain the material.
Hastert spokesman John Feehery said the measure is less about France's opposition to military action than it is about unfair trade policy.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., said last month that irritation caused by France's stance on Iraq would not lead to legislative sanctions. "The primary reaction is kind of sadness and disappointment," he said. "There are folks who make rash statements. Those won't be translated into policy."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.